I am a mom of two little girls. Since my first child was born, I've strived to make us a close family. I looked at my own childhood, my husband's upbringing, and interviewed others (i.e. my hair stylist) to find out how you grow a close family. The simple answer? Do things together. Be together. I think it is almost as simple as that.
Do things together
There are lots of ways to be together as a family. The popular saying "a family that eats together, stays together" is true. Meals are an important way families can spend time together. I know a family that loves history. They center family vacations around historical sites. History is a hobby they share. My family keeps the Sabbath and has that special day to spend together each week.
I believe that spending valuable, God-centered time together has been central in building our close family. Nature-study is a great way to spend quality time together. We have made spending time outside a priority in our family. Not only has it brought us closer together, but it has also brought us closer to God.
Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods, says children today suffer from "nature-deficit disorder." How true, I thought, and how sad. We live so much of our lives inside and behind screens. How can we have a close connection with God if we are never connected with His creation?
After reading Richard Louv's book, I made it a priority in our family to spend lots of time in nature. This year has been amazing. We spend more time together as a family and we have grown closer to God. My girls see the changes in the seasons, and the changes to the animals. They ask questions. We are able to talk about why God created this and why that works the way it does.
Having a close connection with nature helps us have a close connection with God. Being outside is a constant reminder of how much God loves us. After all, He loves us more than the birds.
"Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matthew 6:26).
How to nature-study
Sometimes our outside time is just at a playground, but I try to make sure most of our outside time every week is intentional nature-study time. The best thing we did this year is hang up birdfeeders by our back deck. We have had an amazing summer watching the birds. We saw a mom and dad grosbeak have a family and visit our birdfeeder. We have kept a list of all the birds we have seen this year. My girls get just as excited as me when we see birds at the feeder. Now, as we are approaching winter, we are wondering which birds will stay.
Birds are a great study for the whole family. Don’t just study the birds outside your window. Open your Bible and see how many references to birds you can find. Birds are mentioned a lot! Did you know the oft-quoted phrase, "A little bird told me," can be found in Ecclesiastes?
"Do not curse the king, even in your thought; do not curse the rich, even in your bedroom; for a bird of the air may carry your voice, and a bird in flight may tell the matter" (Ecclesiastes 10:20).
Flowers and trees make another great study. The Bible has a lot to say about flowers and trees, too. Jesus said: "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these" (Matthew 6:28-29).
Psalm 104 is a hymn praising God for His creation. It is a wonderful psalm to study with your family. Map out the parallels to the creation account in Genesis 1. Go out and find the flying creatures of the fifth day and the land animals of the sixth day. Then read Job 38 and all the wonders that God is responsible for.
Be a nature-mentor to your family. Go on walks. Ask questions. Marvel at God's amazing creations. Spend time together talking about God. Spending time in nature is a great way to build a close family and bring your children into a meaningful relationship with God. Deuteronomy 6:5-9 is part of my family's mission statement. God tells us to have quality time with our children.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).